Modern Dance History of the 20th and 21st Centuries

  • Isadora Duncan's First London Performance

    Isadora Duncan's First London Performance
    In London in 1900 she met a group of artists and critics --led by the painter Charles Halle and the music critic John Fuller-Maitland -- who introduced her to Greek statue art, Italian Renaissance paintings and symphonic music. During this perioed, Fuller-Maitland convinced her to stop dancing to recitations and to begin using the music of Chopin and Beethoven for her inspiration.
  • Pioneers of American Modern Dance Marry

    Pioneers of American Modern Dance Marry
    Soon after beginning his dance career, he met and married Ruth St. Denis in 1914; together they founded Denishawn. Shawn taught and promoted many different ethnic and theatrical styles of dance and, with St. Denis, choreographed the Denishawn company’s entire repertoire. He and St. Denis ended both their marital and their professional association in 1931, though they never divorced.
  • Denishawn Dance School

    Denishawn Dance School
    The school and dance company started by Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn known as Denishawn was to be very influential. Modern dance received a warmer welcome in the United States where traditional ballet had not really taken root at the turn of the 20th century. The Denishawn company increased the popularity of modern dance throughout the U.S. and abroad and nurtured the leaders of the second generation of modern dancers amongst whom we must count Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman.
  • Death of Isadora Duncan

    Death of Isadora Duncan
    Isadora Duncan died as dramatically as she had lived, when her long trailing scarf was entangled in the spokes of a wheel of a new Bugatti sports car. In an instant, she was strangled, nearly decapitated by the tightening of the scarf wrapped around her neck.
  • American Choreographer Paul Taylor Born

    American Choreographer Paul Taylor Born
    This American modern dancer and choreographer was noted for the inventive, frequently humorous, and sardonic dances that he choreographed for his company.
  • School of American Ballet Debut

    School of American Ballet Debut
    George Balachine and Lincoln Kirstein opened the School of American Ballet in New York City.
  • American Ballet Theatre Founded

    American Ballet Theatre Founded
    American Ballet Theatre is recognized as one of the great dance companies in the world, for its combination of size, scope, and outreach. Since its foundation in 1940, ABT annually tours the United States, performing for more than 600,000 people, and is the only major cultural institution to do so. It has also made more than 15 international tours to 42 countries and been sponsored by the State Department of the United States on many of these engagements.
  • Unidentified Dance By Isadora Duncan

    Unidentified Dance By Isadora Duncan
    Anna Duncan, one of Isadora Duncan's adopted daughters, performed this piece in August of 1942. She studied with Isadora in Berlin and then performed with her throughout Europe and the U.S. until the group disbanded in 1921.
  • Spirituals

    Pearl Primus began a life-long study of African and African-American material in the 1940s, and developed a repertory of dances emphasizing the rich variety of African diasporic traditions. Soon after her Pillow debut in 1947, Primus spent a year in Africa documenting dances. “I dance not to entertain," she once said, "but to help people to better understand each other."
  • Banjo

    Merce Cunningham joined the Martha Graham Company when he was twenty. His own company was established in 1953, and was filmed during its first Pillow appearance two years later. The first performance of Banjo, a lighthearted piece of Americana, had been given at Black Mountain College and featured Paul Taylor in the cast.
  • The Death of Doris Humphrey

    The Death of Doris Humphrey
    In 1945, suffering from arthritis, Doris Humphrey gave up performing and devoted herself to serving as Artistic Director for the Jose Limon Company and creating works for it. Among these were “Day on Earth,” “Night Spell,” “Ruins and Visions.” In 1958, she made her last and very lasting contribution, a book, The Art of Making Dances, in which she set forth her choreographic principles. Doris Humphrey died December 29, 1958.
  • Premiere of Revelations

    Premiere of Revelations
    "Using African-American spirituals, song-sermons, gospel songs and holy blues--this suite fervently explores the places of deepest grief and holiest joy in the soul." - Alvin Ailey American Dance Foundation, Inc.
  • Pilobolus Formed

    Pilobolus Formed
    Pilobolus began in 1971 as an outsider dance company and quickly became renowned the world over for its imaginative and athletic exploration of creative collaboration.
  • Airs

    Airs is a modern dance in the form of a Greek vase painting. The dancers have chiseled bodies and present strong geometric forms. Oftentimes, one move rapidly flowed into another. The sections of this extended work were at times graceful in a balletic mode or snappy in a folkloric mode. Throughout the work there was much jumping and leaping for joy.
  • Ocellus

    They create dance in a collaborative style, approaching movement as athletes, with a unique approach to partnering. They have often conceptualized their work as scientific in nature – taking their name from a kind of single-celled, yet intelligent, fungus. Today, the company is based in Connecticut and the artistic directors and company members maintain the collaborative approach to creating new work. Ocellus was also included in the repertory of Jacob's Pillow's Men Dancers.
  • A Shaker Dance

    A Shaker Dance
    Beth Soll directed the dance program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for twenty years, and has held a number of other faculty positions throughout the U.S. Her Pillow performances include this unusual 1988 appearance on Inside/Out, with an elaborate production inspired by the Shakers.
  • Martha Graham Dies

    Martha Graham Dies
    For Graham, life away from dance was impossible. Though no longer able to perform she continued to teach and choreograph until her death in 1991. It is nearly impossible to track the influence of Martha Graham. Everyone from Woody Allen to Bette Davis cites her as a major influence. She is universally understood to be the twentieth century’s most important dancer, and the mother of modern dance.
  • Night Journey

    Night Journey
    Night Journey performed by the Martha Graham Dance Company at Jacob's Pillow in 1994, although it first debuted in 1947. It is about the Story of Oedipus and his mother Jocasta
  • Hoop Dance

    Hoop Dance
    Since its inception in 1987, the American Indian Dance Theatre has toured extensively throughout the world, sharing the music, movement and spectacle of its vibrant and living culture. Traditional dances from many regions are featured, including ceremonial and seasonal dances.
  • Rome and Jewels

    Rome and Jewels
    Lorenzo "Rennie" Harris was born in 1964 and grew up in North Philadelphia where he became well-versed in the vernacular of hip-hop, including various techniques of b-boy, house dancing, and stepping. His Rome and Jewels is a recasting of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, translated into another style for the current generation just as West Side Story had done in the 1950s.
  • The One Hundreds

    The One Hundreds
    Related to both the audience-participation element of Dancing In the Streets... and the rigors of The Fugue, The One Hundreds presents anopportunity to put the dance audience on stage. The movements, based on activities anyone, including non-trained dancers, could do, such as skip, hop, shiver, shake, didn't require virtuosos. This was originally created in 1970 but performed at Jacob's Pillow in 2001.